(Derby Evening Telegraph (England) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Monitors were responsible for everything as Julia moved up to 'big school' ; In 1949, Julia Buckland, nee Algie, of Derby, left Nottingham Road Infant School to become a junior. It was time for childhood playtime to end and real work to begin - and she loved it.
IN July 1949, Miss Wenn led us across the Nottingham Road Infants playground through the door in the wall into the junior boys' play - ground, through another door into the girls' play -ground, then on into the juniors to meet Mr Bladon the headmaster. Still in line, we stood in the hall while Mr Bladon chatted with Miss Wenn and gazed around us. Junior school seemed enormous to us after our little wooden shed infant school. The large hall had a wooden block floor with classrooms leading off it. The orange painted classroom doors with glass on the upper half were firmly closed and there was complete silence in the school. We were given a little tour and shown the inside toilets for girls, outside for boys.
We had a little run round what seemed to us the huge playground and were shown the high iron front gates through which we were to come next term, one marked "GIRLS", the other "BOYS". I couldn't wait for the summer holidays to end; I really was a big girl now, not a baby infant any longer.
In September, I happily began junior school and quickly realised it was stricter and more disciplined; gone forever were the encouraging pats, cuddles, or kisses. It was plain from the start our play days were over; we were here to work.
But what bliss the work was, for me anyway.
Times tables to learn out loud by rote, wonderful books to read and mathematical problems to solve as a whole class with our teacher at the blackboard in front, taking us through each stage. Long division, multiplication, compound interest, percentages. There were tests each Friday morning - spelling and mental arithmetic.
Answer the following: How many pence in Pounds 1? 240 How many shillings? 20 How many florins (two shillings)? Ten How many half crowns? Eight How many sixpences? 40 How many threepenny bits? 80 What's a third of Pounds 1? 6s 8d What is five per cent of Pounds 1? One shilling.
How many fluid ounces in a pint? 20 How many ounces in a pound? 16 What's a hundredweight - cwt? 100 lbs Inches, feet, yards, gills, hectares, square feet, cubic feet, circumference...
If two men took three weeks of five working days to dig a trench one mile long, how long would it take four men to dig the trench? Which weighs more - a ton of feathers or a ton of coal? (I still don't believe the correct answer to this is "the same").
Now we were doing "real" work and I found it wonderful.
We progressed from printing our words to joined-up cursive writing.
Each desk had a porcelain inkwell and we were issued with a pen and one nib. Woe betide anyone who mistreated this. T here followed a publicly-conducted interrogation if your nib broke and you requested another.
We were taught personal responsibility by having monitors for everything.
Ink monitors mixed the powdered blue ink and filled the inkwells in each desk. Teacher's desk had both red and blue ink wells.
Window monitors had custody of a long wooden window pole with an S-shaped hook at the end to open and close windows at teacher's bidding. Milk monitors, always boys because of the lifting involved, distributed the correct number of milk bottles in metal crates to each classroom. In winter, when the milk was often frozen, they placed the bottles along the hot water pipes in each classroom until they thawed ready for morning break.
Straw monitors followed the milk monitors. Taking straws from the grey cardboard box in teacher's desk, they pierced each cardboard milk bottle top.
Register monitors took the completed register at the end of morning and afternoon registration from each teacher to the school secretary.
Door monitors leapt up to open the door for teacher to enter and leave the classroom and for any visitors, such as Mr Bladon, the headmaster.
Cloakroom monitors, always Year Four kids, policed the cloakrooms at break times, making sure everyone was outside in the fresh air (which was "good for us") and not taking sanctuary on the warm pipes in the cloakroom. Pump monitors were responsible for making sure each child had the right size school property pumps for PE and country dancing. They were black with the shoe size clearly printed on the toe in white paint and were housed in wire shoe cages.
As they were communal, it was no wonder that Nurse Wragg, up at the daily Roe Farm Clinic, was kept gainfully employed treating athlete's foot and verrucas. Chalk monitors made sure teacher had enough chalk at the start of each lesson. The perk of this was that the half inch stubs could be taken home!
Blackboard monitors leapt up and cleaned the blackboard with a duster or block rubber at the nod of teacher's head. There were other monitors for everything else you could imagine, such as getting PE equipment out, putting PE equipment away, giving books out, collecting books, distributing exercise books, giving out hymn sheets and collecting them.
Nitty Norah visited regularly from the school clinic up on Mill Hill Lane to check for infestation and infection and would discreetly take the child out and up to Roe Farm Clinic for treatment.
Other problems were ringworm and impetigo and it was quite usual to see children's skin painted bright purple Gentian Violet or patches of hair shaved off their heads.
Nicely dressed women from the school clinic came routinely to weigh and measure us before ushering us in to see the delightful schools doctor, Dr Morrison.
He would listen to our chests and check hearing, eyesight, gait, balance and so on - referring any problems to specialists who ran clinics up at Mill Hill.
Not so welcome was the dental nurse visiting to check everyone's teeth, which often resulted in her giving you a yellow form from her carboncopy notebook to take home to inform your parents to attend the dental clinic. The Mill Hill Lane dental clinic was a veritable torture chamber, completely free from sympathy, empathy or pain relief of any sort. Some clever kids discarded this form on the way home but I never dared do that.
Swimming was a treat and the nine and ten-year-old children were taken in a ramshackle green corporation bus to Queen Street Baths for weekly lessons.
For the girls, this involved Mrs Lingard sitting you on the side in a row at the shallow end, hands pointed upwards and heads down then coming along and gently tipping you in; the result was that most would learn to swim and a small minority would be terrified of water for ever. In the latter case, a parent could try writing in to school asking that you be excused but generally they were too busy, unsympathetic or realised it wouldn't work anyway. Parents had very little say; teachers always knew best.
Each day started with all eight classes gathered in the hall for morning assembly with hymns. With Mrs Woolley playing the school's piano and Mr Bladon pointing to the words neatly written on a pull- down screen with his cane, we sang our hearts out to All Things Bright and Beautiful, Morning has Broken, In the Bleak Mid Winter, Onward Christian Soldiers, All Glory, Laud and Honour, Breath on Me Breath of God, Fight the Good Fight with All Thy Might, Jesus Shall Reign Where'ere the Sun, Lead Us Heavenly Father, Lead Us, Now Thank We All Our God, Oh Jesus I Have Promised to Serve Thee 'till the End, Ride On, ride On in Majesty and Who Would True Valour See, Let Him Come Hither. We ended each day with a prayer in our classroom when teacher said "Now, hands together, eyes closed."
Next week, Julia looks at the teachers from her years at Nottingham Road Juniors and remembers with sorrow the summer term of 1953, when rationing was almost at an end, the nation was planning to celebrate Queen Elizabeth's coronation and she had to leave her beloved school.
"Most would learn to swim and a small minority would be terrified of water for ever." JULIA BUCKLAND
"It was plain from the start our play days were over; we were here to work." JULIA BUCKLAND
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